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Project Friendship: Volunteering and Community Involvement

Kai talks about getting involved in the volunteer work and the community with Project Friendship, even as a busy student athlete!

Kai talks about getting involved in the volunteer work and the community with Project Friendship, even as a busy student athlete!

Now, I know that the rigorous academics at Carleton can keep you plenty busy throughout the year. Add in baseball, a campus job, piano, and maintaining a good social life, and you may wonder how I have time for other things. But especially after a year of COVID limiting in-person extracurricular activities, I was eager to get involved in the community.

So before the academic year began, I applied to become a Project Friendship mentor. Once I was accepted, the organization paired me with someone for whom I could offer the greatest impact: Sully, an energetic, fun-loving third grader. Several weeks into Fall Term, I can say that meeting with Sully is always a highlight of my week.

Swing Sully
Sully loves the swings at Central Park, right by the Weitz Center for Creativity

What is Project Friendship? The CCCE?

Carleton’s Center for Community and Civic Engagement (otherwise called the CCCE or “trip-C-E” by Carls) provides students with various opportunities to impact both the campus community and the community beyond Carleton. There are so many ways to get involved through the CCCE! Clothing drives, tutoring, activism, food recovery… you name it–there’s a CCCE program.

Project Friendship is the longest-standing community partnership of the CCCE’s. Since 1965, Project Friendship has matched local students from second to seventh grade with mentors from Carleton and St. Olaf. Every child deserves to have an adult they can rely upon; that’s what Project Friendship provides, and part of the reason why I wanted to join.

I know from my friends who have participated in the program for a few years that it is a rewarding experience to grow up with your mentee. After all, not only does a bond form over the two to four years that the pair spends together, but both the mentor and the mentee experience personal growth in that time. 

My time with Sully!

Donut Sully
Sully after stuffing a Sayles donut into his mouth

In the end, though, it’s also just a treat for me every week. Kids are fun, especially my guy Sully. Plus, Project Friendship also hosts “retreats,” where we hang out with other mentor/mentee pairs and have a blast!

In our individual meetings, we do so many different things in the hour or so that we meet. We play pool and foosball in Sayles (the campus center) before grabbing a donut from the Sayles cafe. We play baseball with my toy bat and ball, or even tag on the Bald Spot. We also make up different games as we explore campus and discuss how our days have gone.

And we’ve only just gotten started. There are so many things I look forward to doing with Sully (like sledding in the winter at Bell Field, located near my dorm in Evans Hall!) and getting to know him better over the next three years. Additionally, Sully has already taught me a lot about myself. I’ve been reminded of how gratifying volunteer work can be, how we all need a trusted pal, and that no matter how busy things get, we could all use a bit of fun!

A picture of Sully and me at the Project Friendship retreat! (Photo credit: Project Friendship)

Kai is entering his second year at Carleton; though born in the Twin Cities, he lived in Kobe, Japan for a year, moved to New York City halfway through high school, and now calls Northfield home (plus Charlottesville, Virginia, his hometown). In true liberal arts student fashion, he’s interested in anything from American Studies to Economics to Psychology; hopefully, double minoring in Japanese and Music Performance. He enjoys walks around Lyman Lakes/in the Arb, seeing friends at Sayles, playing piano at Weitz, and pitching/playing infield for the baseball team. Meet the other bloggers!